The heirs of the Mellon banking dynasty, which goes back to the colonial period if not earlier, embrace the latest ruling class self-legitimating ideology. Right on schedule.
By George Liebmann and Andrew Balio
Not to be outdone by The New York Times‘ 1619 Project, the Mellon Foundation recently announced its appropriation of $250 million for a “Monuments Project: Building the Commemorative Landscape for the 21st Century.” This is said to be the “largest initiative in the foundation’s fifty year history.”
If this allocation were devoted to the creation of new monuments, there could be no objection to it. As Maryland’s Senate President Emeritus, Thomas V. Mike Miller recently observed, we need more monuments, not fewer of them. In an increasingly collectivist age, it is useful for the young to be reminded of the difference individuals can make, and for the middle-aged to be given the hope that their achievements will be indelibly memorialized.
But construction of new monuments is not the focus of this new endeavor. The first grant announced from the $250 million is one of $4 million for a “National Monuments Audit,” to be accompanied by a “concurrent database of reported protest activities tied to monuments.” An additional $1 million is allocated for “ten Monument Lab field offices” that will “re-imagine monuments,” including the “relocation or re-thinking of existing monuments.”
We, the authors, are neighbors in Baltimore. Both our homes face Mt. Vernon Square, where the statue of Judge Roger Taney was removed under the cover of night by a mayor who herself was subsequently removed for corruption, without even consulting the neighbors, leaving an empty plinth. Taney was not even a Confederate and had made a very significant contribution to American jurisprudence, a legacy that is now viewed as controversial because of one decision.
The Mellon Foundation’s project is totalitarian in its proposed scope and radical vision, something utterly in conflict with American pluralism and preference for localism, a brazen effort to wrest control away from communities as to the state of their own public spaces.